Tragic how Sridevi passed away a day before Himmatwala's 35th anniversary
Jeetendra talks exclusively to midday after the sad demise of veteran actress Sridevi
I first met Sridevi at the 100th day jubilee function of one of her Tamil films. I walked up to this bright-eyed girl and congratulated her on her performance. Little did I know that we would be working together in a few months' time.
I was going through a low phase after Deedar-E-Yaar (1982) – the film suffered heavy losses, and brought me back to square one as an actor and producer. Sridevi, too, was coming out of Solva Saawan (1979), her debut film as a full-fledged heroine in Bollywood. The film didn't fare well and almost put her out of the Hindi film industry. So Himmatwala, directed by K Raghavendra Rao, was a turning point for both of us.
Still from Himmatwala
We all know how it changed both our fortunes. Not many know that Rekha was the original choice for Himmatwala. But I guess Sridevi was destined to do the film – she bagged the role and the film became one of the biggest grossers of the year. And with it, Bollywood woke up to the magic of Sridevi.
Today [February 25] marked the 35th anniversary of the film's release and it's tragic how she passed away just a day before... I was terribly shocked when I heard about her demise.
Sridevi was one of my closest co-stars and we did 15 movies together. She was an actor par excellence. What was even more admirable about her was her dedication to the craft – she would keep rehearsing a scene until she was fully satisfied with it. I had deep admiration for her discipline towards her work.
I remember I used to be nervous whenever I would have to dance with Sridevi. She was a fabulous dancer who would get the steps perfectly, right at the first attempt while I had to keep doing rehearsals to match up to her.
I have so many beautiful memories of Sridevi. It's still so difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that the woman, who ruled over everyone's hearts with her shy smile and bright eyes, is no more.
[Jeetendra was Sridevi's co-star in 15 films, with hits including Himmatwala, Tohfa, Majaal and Ghar Sansaar]